From a comment by JMF.
I’ve been holding in a couple questions waiting for you to settle from your vacation. Alas, I start teaching a class this coming Wed. night and it is greatly based on The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace and Amazing Grace … so I am hoping to get some clarifications. I’ve got other questions, but this is the primary one right now.
Being said, I’m on my 4th read of HSARG, and one question keeps jumping out at me. If I understand you, you imply that since we’ll never give/evangelize/help the poor/etc. as well as Jesus, then we are sinning by omission.
Do I understand this correctly? Can we say that not measuring up to Jesus in any regard would be sin?
You basically imply that we are in a perpetual state of sin … the difference is, we are saved. And once saved, we can fall from losing faith, losing penitence, and trying to be justified by works. So it seems your argument is that the reason one can live their entire life in doctrinal error — yet be penitent — and still be saved is because we perpetually sin. Even if they weren’t in doctrinal error, they are in sin by not measuring up to Jesus.
Do I have the gist of this?
That being said, how do you back up with scripture that anything less than Jesus is sin? Because I’ve never measured myself against Jesus–I’ve always measured myself against “the best that I can.” (which strangely sounds like justification by works). Jesus is my example, but I can only do my best….that is simply all I am capable of.
Not measuring up to Jesus would mean EVERYTHING we do is sin, i.e. prayer, worship, singing, helping, etc.
So to me, it seems a lot hinges on the notion that Jesus is the standard, and all that is less is sin.
If you can think of any posts you’ve written on this, please show the link(s).
Thanks for your help, man. I’ve gotten SO much out of your book(s). You say you don’t know how much impact it will have had until God tells you some day…well let me tell you on my end, besides myself, I can tell you 10 people that are working their way out from legalism by Jesus using me to share with them this good news. And I’ve been blessed with an opportunity to share it with 200 more people over this summer as I teach my class. I hope God continues to bless you and yours!
Let me think. I wrote HSARG 20 years ago, you know. I’ve learned a little bit since then, so I’ve got to kind re-think this, you know. Okay. Let’s start with —
(Heb 4:15 ESV) 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus was sinless. But maybe he did more than we’d have to do be sinless. Maybe he was super-sinless.
(1Pe 2:21-23 ESV) 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
Jesus is also said to be our example because he was sinless. But the emphasis here is on Jesus’ submission to suffering and trust in God.
(1Ti 1:16 ESV) 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Again, Jesus is held out as an example to follow in patience, particularly patience in the sense of granting mercy.
(John 13:12-15 ESV) 12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
Jesus himself holds himself up as an example to be following in humble service for others. So it’s clear enough that Jesus is our example — not in being a sandaled, itenerant preacher, but in being a selfless, compassionate, servant to those he encountered. His ultimate example is on the cross —
(Phi 2:1-8 ESV) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing [=kenosis], taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Paul famously offers Jesus’ kenosis — his self-emptying — as an example of how Christians should live. The result is that we should follow his example in our love, accord, and unity of mind, abandonment of rivalry and conceit, acceptance of humility, and concern for others.
Now, if we take this command seriously, then we should, first of all, spend more time honoring the martyrs among us — both in the early church and in the modern church. You see, the martyrs truly live this.
(Rev 2:10 NIV) Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Here’s the meaning of the KJV’s “faithful unto death.” If we truly understood faithfulness, we’d tell the stories of martyrs. We don’t, because we want to avoid the guilt we feel when we do.
So when I think of the standard that Jesus set, it’s obvious, I think, that had he turned from the cross, called 10,000 angels, and avoided the humiliation of crucifixion, he’d not be sinless. His sinlessness is shown by crucifixion. Thus,
(Gal 2:20 ESV) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
(Rom 6:6-8 ESV) 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
Our crucifixion with Christ (literally, co-crucifixion) means we enjoy the resurrection of Jesus but also take on the life of Jesus. “Christ … lives in me”! But his living with me is only fully realized to the extent I live as Jesus lived — and die as Jesus died.
So I think I stand by my original position. Jesus not only was sinless, his life is the very definition of sinlessness, because we are called, as Christians, to live as Jesus lived. The call is not about the incidentals — being single, jobless, etc. It’s about living in humble submission and service to others, showing compassion and love at every opportunity — and being so principled that we’d die rather than do otherwise.
Does that mean our worship is sinful, even when we get all five acts exactly right? Well, in a sense. After all, the Bible says to worship in “Spirit and in truth.” “Truth” is the good news about Jesus. The truth is who Jesus was and is and what he’s done for us. And who can measure up to such a standard?
The biggest problem with the notion that doctrinal purity is necessary for salvation — such things as the acts of worship and church organization — is that it takes the emphasis off Jesus and puts it on to our ability to logically discern God’s will. Study and orthodoxy trumps transformation into the image of Christ and orthopraxy.
(Gal 4:18-19 ESV) 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!
The goal of Paul’s ministry is personal transformation into the image of Christ.
(Rom 8:29 ESV) 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
And one purpose of worship — preaching, singing, Eucharist, giving, praying — is to transform us into Christ’s image. We’ve not worshipped perfectly, therefore, until we’ve been fully transformed. And that won’t happen this side of the Eschaton!
That doesn’t mean that Christianity is futile!! It means we must rely on grace and yet continue to pursue holiness by pursuing Christ-like-ness. NOT so we can be saved, but because we’ve been saved and want to be just like our Rabbi. We want to be like Jesus because our struggles give joy to the Father and to each other — like a three-year old child putting on his father’s shoes, well knowing that his feet are too small, but knowing that he’s growing into big shoes, and anxious to be more and more like his father every day.
(2Co 3:17-18 ESV) 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Finally, while I think being less perfect than Jesus is sin, that doesn’t mean every single thing we do is sin. After all, sometimes we do exactly what Jesus would have done.
Jesus was a finite being. He didn’t preach to everyone. He didn’t heal everyone. He had to take time off. He always obeyed, but he sometimes found it hard. He was fully human.